Review: Daisy Pulls It Off @ Lichfield Garrick

A grandly stylish opening for the new year from the Lichfield Players with their assured production of Denise Deegan’s classic girl’s-school comedy Daisy Pulls It Off.

Camp, funny and very, very silly, this is the sort of stiff-upper-lip boarding school story between-the-wars girls were regularly offered, with a crackling cast of starchy teachers, snobby boarders and good-sort heroines whose adventures showed the kind of pluck that made Britain and its empire (soon to evaporate) great.

Some of the Daisy Pulls it Off cast

Some of the Daisy Pulls it Off cast

Manfully resisting the temptation to send it all sky-high, Andrew Bodger’s exquisitely judged direction preserves the delicate bloom on Denise Deegan’s parody of the genre while assuring it remains a charmingly laugh-out–loud evening of delightful entertainment. At the same time meticulous casting allows him to rein in any potential excesses inherent in this loving send up of a by-gone style.

The plot revolves around not-very-well-off schoolgirl Daisy Meredith who’s the first scholarship girl to win a place at an exclusive boarding school. Her cheerful pluckiness singles her out as being the Right Sort, but she needs every ounce of optimism as she comes up against the stuffiness of the old-style teaching and the spiteful snobbiness of some of the girls.

Plot-wise there’s a depression era threat of closure owing to lack of funding, and a rumour of hidden treasure that’s a challenge toany red-blooded new girl. The result is a beautifully judged parody of the girl’s school story tradition, with some great performances making this show a memorable high in the Players’ history.

Denise Baker catches just the right benignly magisterial manner as headmistress Miss Gibson, while Adrienne Swallow dithers delightfully as Daisy’s mother. Rosemary Bodger beautifully illuminates the starchy literalness of the dedicated but unimaginative schoolmistress Miss Granville, while Lucy Bishop and Ellie Galvin give the plot plenty of bite as the two sneaky schoolgirls Sybil and Monica who take exception to a new girl with – gasp – a mere scholarship.

Sarah Stanley sports a vigorously authentic Irish accent as good-sort senior Alice Fitzpatrick while Rebecca Hyland is lovely as the super-keen Belinda Mathieson. Hannah Davies is outstanding as the heroine of the hour Daisy Meredith, but there’s always a star and here it is Beth Dunmore as the irrepressible Trixie Martin – hers is a brilliantly original performance.

I won’t spoil the revelations, suffice it to say everything (of course) comes out more or less right in the end. Congratulations to the Players for succeeding in warming us all up on a frosty evening.

Daisy Pulls It Off runs in the Garrick main house until January 23. For tickets go online at www.lichfieldgarrick.com or call 01543 412121.

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